Britain to extend EU customs ties after 2021
Theresa May’s government will tell Brussels it is prepared to stay tied to the customs union beyond 2021, as ministers remain deadlocked over a future deal with the EU, The Daily Telegraph reported.
The Brexit war cabinet this week agreed on a ‘‘backstop’’ as a last resort to avoid a hard Irish border, having rejected earlier proposals from the EU.
Ministers approved the plans on Wednesday despite objections from Boris Johnson and Michael Gove. A pro-European Cabinet source said that the Foreign Secretary and Environment Secretary were ‘‘outgunned’’ during the meeting and reluctantly accepted the plans.
The Brexit sub-committee agreed that Britain would stay aligned to the customs union if highly complex technology needed to operate the borders was not ready. Officials have warned it may not be in place until 2023.
Government sources said that the Irish ‘‘backstop’’ would be strictly ‘‘time-limited’’ and would allow Britain to implement non-EU trade deals.
However, Eurosceptics raised concerns that it could lead to Britain being tied to the customs union indefinitely. Jacob Rees-Mogg said: ‘‘The risk of the Government using all its mental energy on the fallback position is that it creates a position that is more attractive than a permanent deal.
‘‘We have gone from a clear end point, to an extension, to a proposed further extension with no end point. The horizon seems to be unreachable.
‘‘The bottom of the rainbow seems to be unattainable. People voted to leave, they did not vote for purgatory.’’
Earlier this year the EU tabled a backstop option that said that Britain must maintain ‘‘full alignment’’ with the single market and the customs union to avoid a hard border. On Tuesday the Brexit war cabinet agreed to put forward a new version of the backstop, which would remove the reference to the single market but keep Britain aligned to customs union rules.
The Cabinet source said that Johnson, Gove and David Davis had made clear their objections. However, the Brexit Secretary was reassured after securing improvements, while other Eurosceptics eventually decided to ‘‘swallow’’ the proposal. Senior EU sources said that Britain would have to agree to temporarily remain in a customs union to secure progress in talks. – Telegraph Group
Prime Minister Theresa May’s government has reached a ‘‘backstop’’ agreement to avoid a hard Irish border.